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Updated 10:00 AM December 4, 2006
 

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U-M, MSU, Wayne State create University Research Corridor

U-M, Michigan State and Wayne State universities announced Nov. 28 the creation of the University Research Corridor (URC), an ongoing alliance to jointly work to transform, strengthen and diversify Michigan's economy.

The URC universities are a magnet for investment and jobs, and bring more than $1.3 billion in federal research grants into Michigan each year, say leaders of the three universities. By marshaling their resources, presidents of the universities are reaching out to businesses, policymakers, innovators, investors and the public to speed up technology transfer, make resources more accessible and help attract new jobs to the state.

Over the past five years, the universities—which together bring 95 percent of federal academic research dollars to Michigan—have announced an average of one invention every day. Collectively these discoveries have led to more than 500 license agreements for new technologies and systems.

The corridor partners work in collaboration on many projects, among themselves and with business communities on topics ranging from technology transfer and commercialization to entrepreneurship and urban policy. Michigan's resulting "brain gain" is a prime example of research as a magnet for economic development.

The URC's goal is to enhance state and national competitiveness in an era of globalization, and to communicate the role and activities of the universities to improve their ability to engage in meaningful partnerships.

"We have an absolute responsibility to the state to help transform an economy that is flagging,'' says President Mary Sue Coleman. "Together we have achieved much. But we must set our sights higher and do even more to turn ideas into action.''

Research corridor universities spark regional economic development via invention, innovation, technology transfer and by attracting smart and talented people to the state, officials say. The presidents have stressed their commitment to the state's success and creating a Michigan that sustains a high quality of life.

"Our three universities continue to give Michigan a body of educated, responsible citizens who contribute to the state's cultural, social and economic life in myriad ways, from curing the sick to feeding the world," says Wayne State President Irvin Reid.

Each year, the universities produce more than 26,000 graduates, including 3,800 with engineering degrees, 1,300 with doctoral degrees, 1,400 with master's degrees in business administration, more than 1,000 new doctors and nurses and 54 percent of the state's science and engineering graduates. Together, they have more than 1 million living alumni, including more than 100 chief executives of major companies in metropolitan Detroit.

The URC partners will provide tools and university resources to improve their outreach and collaborative efforts. The presidents also announced the launch of a joint Web site, www.urcmich.org, to make their efforts and resources more easily accessible and understandable to the public, and to give stakeholders the means to locate potential partners within the universities more easily.

"Our research universities are creators of knowledge and generate the innovations, the new technologies, and the new businesses that not only provide jobs, but also improve life for all citizens of Michigan," said Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon.

Detroit News columnist Dan Howes has argued that "all the right tools are here'' for an economic comeback, calling the three universities "the closest thing Michigan has to Silicon Valley: an intellectual powerhouse.''

The three are working to develop the state's most promising growth sectors, including alternative energy, medicine, life sciences, nanotechnology, homeland security and transportation.

The corridor builds on the foundation of the 1999 Life Sciences Corridor initiative, in which the three collaborated to help develop a new industry from the ground up. The constitutionally autonomous universities each are involved with projects across the state, with impact reaching around the globe.

Last year, the U.S. Base Realignment and Closure Commission decided to retain 4,100 jobs in Warren, home of the U.S. Army's TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, and to bring an additional 1,000 jobs here because of the area's convergence of transportation experts from universities and private industry. Meanwhile, new Michigan employers like Toyota, Google and Hyundai said proximity to local research universities was one of the main reasons they moved here.

For more on the University Research Corridor go to www.urcmich.org. For more on the U-M Office of Technology Transfer go to www.techtransfer.umich.edu/.

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